London filmgoers kept title mum after live screening event
As Fox’s “Prometheus” continues its B.O. run around the globe, the Ridley Scott-helmed sci-fier has also expanded its footprint in Blighty in an unusual — and lucrative — way: through Future Cinema’s surprise Secret Cinema venture.
What’s the secret?
Film fans are shelling out $54 per ticket … without knowing what film they’ll see.
What they are paying for is an immersive, interactive experience involving actors playing parts on a set complementary to the secret film at a location only revealed to them on the day of the screening.
In the case of “Prometheus,” the event was launched in tandem with the pic’s U.K. release on June 1 in a first for Secret Cinema, which has unspooled 18 event performances of classic pics in the past five years.
The four-week run of the Secret screenings, which ended Sunday, smashed ticket sales for a single venue for “Prometheus,” grossing £720,000 ($1.1 million) across 38 shows in 28 days, beating the performance at London’s BFI Imax (the top-earning cinema screen in the U.K.), where the pic has grossed $1.02 million so far.
The secret film attracted more than 25,000 attendees. And the sales figures are even more impressive given that attendees are asked to not tweet, Facebook or otherwise communicate the name of the film for its entire run.
For “Prometheus,” promoters transformed a 190,000-square-foot warehouse in central London into a futuristic spaceship, including props from the actual movie. Ticketholders, who were invited to come dressed like workers in various scientific professions, met at a spot nearby and were led to the secret screening by actors. The interaction continued with the actors re-enacting scenes until the pic began, preceded by a taped message from Scott.
The event provides inspiration for distribs looking for alternative methods to showcase pics. It also fits in with how marketers increasingly find they need to reach moviegoers with their campaigns in foreign territories, especially Europe. Auds there tend to react more to campaigns where they can interact with a film’s marketing materials through photo opportunities or other experiences. Doing so makes auds feel as if they have a connection to a pic when it bows, rather than more traditional poster, billboard and trailer efforts in the U.S.
Secret Cinema’s innovative efforts have paid off previously with classics — the 1949 classic “The Third Man” grossed $1.1 million in its six-week run. But Future Cinema founder Fabien Riggall said Secret Cinema is also gaining interest from studios and other distribs looking to enhance the theatrical runs of current releases.
“I think people are now taking what we do seriously,” said Riggall, noting, “It doesn’t take away revenue from a traditional release. It actually creates a culture around the film.”
He said the buzz factor of signing up to see an unannounced title provides an extra layer.
“I think the success of ‘Prometheus’ at Secret Cinema is culturally saying what people want in addition to the current offering,” Riggal said. “If we can get a hoard of people in to watch a film without telling them what it is, there are endless possibilities. We are, of course, not looking to replace theatrical releases but rather work alongside them.”
Such an operation is no cheap undertaking: While Riggall declined to reveal the cost of staging the monthlong event with a team of close to 160 people, the figure sits north of $775,000, a big risk and upfront investment. Brands helped with the investment: 3D glasses were provided by Dolby, and vfx in the venue were provided by London-based post house Framestore.
Riggall said Future Cinema is talking to other studios about teaming for future releases. And there are plans afoot for expansion.
Future Cinema has set up an office in Gotham and plans to launch Secret Cinema in New York this fall. It also has its sights set on Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin and Moscow.